Houston law firm Ogletree, Abbott, Clay & Reed is seeking to recover the $61,965.69 it paid to FindLaw, plus punitive damages for fraud and other causes of action.
According to the complaint, the law firm hired FindLaw “to redesign the Ogletree websites and to improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of the Ogletree websites.”
But when the new sites launched, said the firm, “there were numerous errors and omissions including: missing content, changed file names and conventions, unauthorized outbound links, paid links to the Ogletree websites, increased code size and website latency.”
The firm claimed that FindLaw omitted 2,146 web pages — about 84% of the firm’s previously existing content disappeared.
The complaint noted that
Each webpage with high quality, useful and relevant content that is indexed by Google potentially increases the ranking of the website’s page(s) for people searching for specific keywords.
FindLaw also secretly put outbound links to its own site on every page of the firm’s site, and used paid inbound links that “would subject the Ogletree websites to serious penalties from Google for Black Hat SEO techniques,” according to the complaint.
The firm also accused FindLaw of misrepresenting that it provided “custom content” developed by “expert copy writers” and a “dedicated team of attorney SEO experts,” noting that FindLaw outsources work to Bangalore, India and had recently cut its staff by 25%.
The firm’s managing partner said that the firm’s business plummeted after the website was redesigned and it was forced to lay off employees.
FindLaw has sought to have the case dismissed, saying that its websites are provided “as-is,” with no warranty of “fitness for a particular use.”
A hearing has been set for May 5.